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A while back I suggested that the killing of Osama bin Laden wasn’t likely to provide President Obama with much of a long-term benefit. Now I’m beginning to change my mind.

Why? Not because of the fundamentals of the situation, which haven’t changed. It’s because over the past week I’ve been watching the almost pathetic desperation with which conservatives are trying to denigrate Obama’s part in the bin Laden operation. Really, it’s been awesome. On radio, TV, blogs, op-eds, pretty much everywhere, they’ve been in a lather insisting that Obama himself played no real role; that he’s arrogantly hogging the spotlight; that he screwed up by announcing the operation so soon; that the entire success is really due to Bush-era torture policies; that he shouldn’t have killed bin Laden; that he’s being churlish by not giving George W. Bush enough credit; etc. etc. etc. It’s been a virtual feeding frenzy, and the stink of fear that Obama is appropriating the traditional Republican role as killer of bad guys is palpable.

Sure, this is just politics, and if it were the summer silly season that’s how I’d view it. But Republicans already have a message that they want to stay laser-focused on: tackling the deficit. The fact that they’re taking so much time out from that to denigrate Obama’s role in the bin Laden operation suggests that they think this is a big deal. And if they think it’s a big deal, then maybe it is. They’re usually pretty good at reading the public mood, after all.

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